Caregivers of children affected by HIV and Aids are facing new challenges as the youngsters approach adulthood, according to a new Idasa study.
"Where do children who have been cared for in institutions go when they turn 18?" asks the study.
The authors, Mwanja Ng'anjo and Christèle Diwouta, of Idasa's governance and aids programme, say caregivers and counsellors now have to deal with issues of dating, sex and a different level of health education.
"Funds also need to be secured for the children's post-matric education, as well as life-skills training especially for those with special needs," they say. "These are some of the challenges, albeit ironic, that improved access to anti-retroviral therapy has brought as the life expectancy of children living with HIV increases."
In a case study, the report says most of the 45 children at the Mohau Centre in Pretoria are HIV positive, and have lost either one or both parents to an Aids-related illness.
When Mohau opened in its doors in 1997 it was common for children to die "every other day". But due to the improvement in medication, no child has died in the last seven years, the report says, and a good number of the children are reaching their teens.
It says next year one of the Mohau children will become the first of its wards to turn 18, which means she will no longer be eligible for the government's child welfare grant.
"She has lived most of her life under the auspices of the Mohau Centre and, struggling with some handicaps, she is very unlikely to be able to survive on her own as an adult, with perhaps a social grant as her only income."
Housing the children
In an attempt to deal with the challenge, the centre is putting in place a business proposal aimed at housing the growing children within communities, the report says.
"It is hoped that once they reach adulthood, the children in the care of the centre will find it easier to care for themselves if they are already living in communities and interacting daily with other people."
The report says South Africa has the highest number of children living with HIV in the world, with an estimated 280,000 children below the age of 15 HIV positive.
It says there are close to three million orphans in the country, including those who have lost parents to Aids. (Sapa/ September 2010)
Read more: What is HIV/AIDS?